Common elbow issues and how to fix them

Whether they are helping you get into downward dog, or allowing you to cradle your newborn, your elbows must work correctly. However, because they are used so much in everyday life elbow issues and pain are common. The good news is you can find out all about the different types and how to deal with them below. 

Fractures and stress fractures 

In simple terms, a fracture is when the elbow bone is broken in some way. Stress fractures differ from impact or trauma fractures in their scale and cause. Stress fractures tend to be smaller, and caused by repeated use, while a ‘normal’ fracture can be caused by a specific impact or fall. 

Treatment of elbow fractures whether they are caused by stress or not will depend largely on the individual situation. For example, less serious fractures may be left to heal on their own, while extensive stress fractures or fractures that puncture the skin will require surgery and setting to heal. Although it always makes sense to get checked out by a medical professional.  

Tendinopathy & tendinosis

More frequently known as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, tendinopathy & tendinosis are caused by overuse. Indeed, the terms tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow arise from the fact that those playing these sports are most vulnerable to the conditions because of the movement of the elbow involved. 

Of course, it is not only tennis or golf players that experience tendinopathy & tendinosis, and if you find yourself suffering from them, you will want to seek treatment as quickly as possible to ensure the condition does not worsen. 

Both conditions require similar care, which should include actions to reduce inflammation and pain such as taking painkillers and icing the affected area. Additionally, learning how to tape tennis elbow can provide additional support when you are using your arm. The good news is that this is something that will not only lessen the pain but also help to slow the progression of the degeneration of the tendons. Indeed, without taking actions such as these to halt the degeneration both tennis and golfers’ elbow can procedure to the stage where they require orthopaedic surgery so it’s well worth investing the time and effort in some care now, to protect your health over the long term. 

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Bursitis is an inflammation of the small fluid-filled sacks around the elbow joints. The purpose of these sacks is to cushion the joints, tendons, and muscles, and make the movement of your elbow joint smoother. However, due to infection, accident or overuse, these fluid-filled sacks can become swollen and painful, making it harder to use your elbow.  

The good news is that, as a rule, bursitis doesn’t tend to be too serious and can often be treated with pain medication as it heals. For stubborn cases, antibiotics or steriods may be necessary, while some people have found relief by using complementary therapies alongside traditional treatments, such as acupressure mats

Nerve problems 

There are two types of nerve problems that are common in the elbow. The first is known as radial tunnel syndrome. This is when the radial nerve is squeezed by the radial tunnel on the outside of your elbow, causing numbness and sometimes a burning sensation in your elbow and the outside of your arm. 

Treatments for radial tunnel syndrome include using elbow splints to minimise irritation of the nerve, steroid injections and NSAI drugs to help with the pain and reduce swelling. 

Then there is cubital tunnel syndrome where the ulnar nerve is squeezed on the inside of your elbow as it runs through the cubital tunnel. Often resulting in numbness in your fingers, hands, and arms. 

One of the simplest ways to treat cubital tunnel syndrome is to cease the activities that are causing it for enough time to allow the nerve to heal. To establish what these you will need to see a physical therapist. 

Elbow emergencies 

Many of the conditions listed above can be painful and interfere with your quality of life. However, they can usually wait for treatment until you have made a regular appointment with your medical professional.

However, do remember that there are some instances where you will need to seek treatment for an elbow condition or injury right away. For example, if you have dislocated or fractured your elbow. Additionally, if you have pain and swelling that will not go down, or if you are running a fever it’s important to see immediate medical care as it could indicate a more serious problem.

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